The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is once again near the top of President Obama's second term agenda. In Tested By Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), writes that as far as peace is concerned, "There is hope, but no chance. At least there is no chance for a magic formula conjured up in a diplomatic salon that will end decades of conflict."
Drawing on his experience as deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush, Abrams provides a detailed portrait of the Bush's eight-year effort to foster a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Abrams seeks to set the record straight on the question of how engaged President Bush was in negotiating a solution: "The usual complaint about Bush policy—that the president and his staff paid little or no attention to the Middle East (or, in another version, paid no attention until the last years in office when it was simply too late to achieve much)—is nonsense."
Abrams brings the reader right into the White House as well as the palaces and offices of Middle Eastern leaders, showing what meetings—and at times clashes—at the highest levels are truly like. He also offers unique insights into the inner workings of the administration's diplomacy, including: President Bush's relationships with Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as well as how electoral politics affected the president's decisions.
Abrams also provides his "lessons learned." One is to focus less on negotiations and more on the realities on the ground, including how Palestinians live day to day: "The lack of real-world progress actually threatens any talks that may be underway, because Palestinians will give them no credence if the context is a worsening of the conditions under which they live. Talks may then appear to be an Israel trick, a means of prolonging the occupation."
A Council on Foreign Relations Book